NEW YORK — Video surveillance released Friday of the mistaken arrest of former tennis star James Blake shows a plainclothes police officer who has a history of excessive-force complaints grabbing Blake by the arm and tackling him to the ground.
Officer James Frascatore’s rough arrest of the hometown
Frascatore was the subject of four civilian complaints in a seven-month period of 2013, and he has been named in two federal civil rights lawsuits as being among a group of officers accused of beating, pepper spraying and falsely arresting two Queens men in separate incidents that year.
The surveillance footage shows Blake standing against a silver post outside the Grand Hyatt New York when Frascatore approaches suddenly, grabs Blake, spins him around and throws him to the ground.
Stephen Davis, the NYPD’s top spokesman, released the video Friday and said Blake was interviewed by internal affairs detectives Thursday night.
Frascatore, who has four years on the force and previously worked as a police officer in Florida, was the officer who arrested Blake, a law enforcement official confirmed Friday. The official was not authorized to publicly discuss the case and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The official said one of the complaints was exonerated, another dismissed, a third — for refusing to identify himself — was substantiated, and the status of the fourth was unclear.
In a statement, Blake said that “while I continue to believe the vast majority of our police officers are dedicated public servants who conduct themselves appropriately, I know that what happened to me is not uncommon.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton said in a statement that the city “extends deepest apologies to Mr. Blake” and that both the mayor and police commissioner “stand ready” to meet with Blake.
“The incident remains under investigation to determine what contributed to the errors made, who may be held accountable, and what we can learn to prevent these mistakes from being repeated in the future,” they said.
Bratton said earlier Friday that investigators were reviewing the officer’s disciplinary record “understanding that some of those issues were exonerated.” He didn’t elaborate.
A number listed for Frascatore, 38, wasn’t in service Friday and a spokesman for his union declined to comment on the claims.
Patrick J. Lynch, head of the police officer’s union, said the officer was apprehending “what he had every reason to believe was an individual who had just committed a crime.”
He said he regrets any embarrassment or injury suffered by Blake as a result, but the apprehension was made “under fluid circumstances where the subject might have fled, and the officer did a professional job of bringing the individual to the ground.”
Frascatore’s four complaints to the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which investigates claims of police misconduct, are more than average for an officer. Three-fourths of the department has two or fewer complaints against them, according to the board’s data. The complaints against Frascatore were first reported by radio’s WNYC.
In one of the federal lawsuits, Warren Diggs claims Frascatore and other officers arrested him in the driveway of his own home in January 2013 as he attempted to go inside to get his ID, hitting him on the head so hard he fell down and then pepper spraying him, court papers show. City lawyers are reviewing that case, a spokesman for the Law Department said.
Four months later, Stefon Luckey claims Frascatore was among a group of officers who punched him, pepper-sprayed him and hurled racial epithets at him outside a Queens deli, the lawsuit said. Luckey’s lawyer, Philip Hines, said his client texted him after Frascatore’s name became public: “Everything done in the dark eventually comes to light.”
Lawyers for the city “are in the early stages of litigation,” in that case, Law Department spokesman Nick Paolucci said.
Blake, 38, was arrested after he was misidentified as being involved in a fraudulent credit card scheme that was using the hotel for deliveries, police have said.
Blake had been ranked as high as No. 4 in the world and reached three Grand Slam quarterfinals. Before retiring after the 2013 U.S. Open, he won 10 singles titles, most recently in 2007.
Twice he reached the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open, a hometown tournament that seemed to bring out his best play.
The story has been corrected based on information from a law enforcement official to show that the officer received four complaints, not five, from the New York City agency charged with investigating allegations of police misconduct.
Associated Press writer Frank Eltman contributed to this report from Mineola, New York.
Jake Pearson And Colleen Long, The Associated Press